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Thursday, December 09, 2021

On Freedom and License

The courts have in recent months interestingly drawn that thin line between freedom and license. They have supported an artist who was being vandalised.

Written by Yoginder K. Alagh |
April 21, 2009 3:23:16 pm

The courts have in recent months interestingly drawn that thin line between freedom and license. They have supported an artist who was being vandalised.They have also taken an interesting view largely supportive of the freedom of speech of a politician who said fairly inflammatory things and was in fact being frowned upon by statutory authorities. Ideas suppressed create more problems than those out in the open for discussion and debate in the bazaar. Real progress in society and technology comes only when individuals think out of the box and outside it. History is full,not only of outstanding philosophers but also scientists who were right,had invented progress but were persecuted because they questioned strong beliefs held by their compatriots and peers.

I can say what I want to but as soon as my hand reaches your nose,the police have the right to intervene. That part is easy to accept. What happens when what I am saying can lead to somebody else beating you. It is difficult to lay down absolute principles of the line at which freedom degenerates into license. We know that the powers of the state to stop violence are in some sense limited,for we,the people,are more than policemen and so there will have to be some restraint,but very judiciously used. Chairing a committee on obscenity in the well-known Arts Faculty of a University,I found that we as a society tend to err on the side of controls rather than freedom. Some of the stuff sent around may be personally annoying but surely an artist has the right to do that.

The Home Minister characterised Naxalites as outlaws. He is of course quite right in saying that when violence,in terms of murder and larceny,takes place,the response has to be immediate and you don’t get into the social origins of the criminal act. But the larger concept of security has to get into that. A committee on the reform of recruitment and training of the higher civil services I chaired has a chapter on internal security as an administrative challenge. It advocates the mailed fist and the velvet glove. The chapter has been commented upon,for it is now on the internet and is wrongly attributed to me. The draft was written by an outstanding civil servant,currently a Governor of a state. Some of our most outstanding civil servants have negotiated with idealistic groups who swore by violence. When I was JNU VC,my Union President was a CPI(ML) boy whose faction had also agreed to use non-violent methods. Many senior politicians now were outside the pale of accepted ideas when they were young. We would lose a lot if we give up negotiating with this larger tradition.

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